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War and Peace vs. Tom Clancy

May 22, 2011

Remember the good old days when we could make fun of the longwinded nature of Russian authors who would never use ten words when a hundred could say the same thing?   But then Tom Clancy came around and ruined it.  A Russian author who would use 100 words instead of 10 words to say something is way better than an American author who uses 100 pages to say absolutely nothing.  The longest novel I ever read that said nothing was… aw, I can’t even remember which Tom Clancy super-long epic it was (the one where Jack Ryan becomes president, I think). 

At least War and Peace had a point (at least that’s what those who have claimed to have read it say). 

WAR AND PEACE vs. TOM CLANCY 

War and Peace: Numerous characters with long Russian names can be confusing to non-Russian readers (please, no jokes about the phrase “Russian readers” being an oxymoron). 

Tom Clancy novels: numerous weapons with long-winded explanations can be confusing to readers who know nothing about modern weaponry that may or may not really exist. 

War and Peace:  Still relevant 150 years after publication.

 Tom Clancy novels:  Because of the quick movements of current events and changes in technology, irrelevant as soon as they are published.

 War and Peace: Any problems with the novel can be blamed on the translation.

 Tom Clancy novels: Any problems with the novel (like bad dialogue) can be blamed squarely on the author.

 War and Peace:  I wish I could say with pride that I’ve read the whole thing, but I can’t because I haven’t. 

Tom Clancy novels:  I’ve read several, but I wish I could say with pride that I haven’t.  To be fair, I liked Clear and Present Danger

War and Peace:  This novel will continue to be read hundreds of years from now. 

Tom Clancy novels:  These novels will be forgotten in a few decades, but Tom Clancy has made a ton of money, so who cares?  I would love to make millions of dollars writing novels that will soon be forgotten. 

War and Peace: It breaks Dysfunctional Literacy Rule #3, but we know that we should read it anyway because it’s (supposedly) one the BEST BOOKS EVER! 

Tom Clancy novels: They break both rules #2 and 3, but we read them anyway because they came out before we had rules for dysfunctional literates.  

THE CASE AGAINST READING WAR AND PEACE 

It’s written in Russian.  Okay. 

If you don’t read Russian, then you have to read a translation, and no matter how good the translation is, it’s going to miss much of the subtleties that made Tolstoy a great writer.  There are also a lot of references to Russian society that might require some research.  That’s a lot of work just to read a huge novel. 

THE CASE FOR READING WAR AND PEACE 

You can brag about it after you finish it. 

THE CASE FOR READING TOM CLANCY NOVELS 

The good guys always win, and the good guys are almost always the U.S.A.  Since there are few subtleties in Tom Clancy’s writing, these books are probably very easy to translate into Russian, but because the Russians are often portrayed negatively, there might not be a market for translated Tom Clancy novels in Russia. 

THE CASE AGAINST READING TOM CLANCY NOVELS 

You can watch the movies which are usually better and take up less time in your life. 

TOM CLANCY WRITES WAR AND PEACE 

This is either a great idea or a horrible idea.  Tom Clancy should get a synopsis of War and Peace and then retell the story in his Clancyesque style.  Pierre Bezhukov could be renamed Peter Ryan.  Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky would be renamed Prince Andy Brewer.  You get the idea.  The characters are still Russian, but the names are Americanized to help us keep up.  Every weapon from the early 19th century could be described with intricate detail.  A bunch of ironically dismissive comments about the growing United States could be made by both French and Russian characters.  The book could be called Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace by Tom Clancy, just like Tom Clancy lends his name to projects that he allegedly barely looks at.  If Clancy could keep his version to under 500 pages (get rid of all the characters’ inner turmoil), we might just read it.  But we wouldn’t brag about it later. 

DO RUSSIANS WISH THEY COULD READ MOBY DICK

War and Peace is kind of like the Russian version of Moby Dick for dysfunctional literates.  We’d like to be able to read it, but it takes a lot of work, and we’re not sure it’s worth the time.  Do Russian dysfunctional literates wish they could read Moby Dick?  How does Moby Dick even translate into Russian?  If you translate the title Moby Dick into Russian, do Russian teenagers laugh?  If you say, “Moby Dick was a sperm whale,” in Russian, do they giggle?  Does the Russian vocabulary have the subtlety for Hermann Melville’s language?  Or is the idea of a long novel about an American whale hunter so abhorrent in today’s international community that no Russian would want to read Moby Dick in the first place?  Do Russians even want to read War and Peace anymore?  These are questions that we at Dysfunctional Literacy seriously do not know the answers to. 

Any insight (other than our own) would be appreciated.

From → Literary Combat

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